Netflix Signs GoT Creators But How Much More Can It Spend?


This is not investment advice. The author has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. has a disclosure and ethics policy.

Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) announced that Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss have signed a multiyear film and TV deal worth $200 million to create content for the streaming service, taking the duo away from their longtime home at HBO.

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Benioff and Weiss, were also in discussions with Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) (which recently spent $150 million to poach Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy), and came to their decision after extensive negotiation with Netflix, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sources that spoke to THR said that Amazon was initially the front runner, but Netflix countered with a very competitive 11th-hour offer.

When Will the Streaming Bubble Burst?

The content streaming industry is becoming hyper-competitive, with new market entrants Apple (NASDAQ:APPL)and Disney getting ready to launch their respective streaming services in the fall. Consumers around the world continue to ditch their traditional television subscription services, and there’s a lot of market up for grabs. Boston Consulting Group estimates that this means a market worth approximately $30 billion could be up for grabs.

As reported earlier on Wccftech, with the upcoming launch of Disney+ and Apple TV+ in the fall the streaming market will be a bloodbath: eventually Netflix will be the victor in the streaming wars at Apple TV+’s expense, but it will come at a big cost. According to surveys, consumers don’t have the appetite to add a third streaming service: A recent UBS Evidence Lab Media Consumption survey says 50% of respondents would only pay for one service, while nearly 40% said they would pay for two to three, and only about 10% said they would pay for more than four.

So what does this mean? A more competitive market means that the incumbents will have to fight harder -- investing in original content -- for each viewer. It will cost more to win over a viewer for an hour than before. In addition, as content becomes more siloed with new entrants arriving, consumers will have to subscribe to more services to get the same amount of content. Surveys show that Netflix -- its name literally is synonymous with streaming -- still comes out ahead but its strategy might be risky.

In order to fund its investment in content, Netflix is taking on debt -- and a lot of it. Earlier this year, Netflix borrowed $2 billion in cash to fund its content spending. While this might be a concern, considering the diminishing returns in such a competitive market, analysts have also pointed out that if you consider the media market broadly speaking Netflix’s debt load in line with the industry average. Take what you will from this, as this may be an Apples-to-Oranges comparison given that Netflix's direct peers aren't established broadcasters and other media companies with a history that spans decades.

However, in this case, there’s a key exception: Netflix’s competitors don’t have a similar debt problem. They aren't funding the content war with debt. This will be the company's Achilles heel; when subscriptions begin to slow investors will start to get nervous about this debt load.

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